One thing I love about Boston is that no matter how handsomely appointed the bar room, no matter how fancy the crowd, you can always find a group of drunk guys yelling at the game on the TV. So it went on my recent trip to Gem, the new offering from Big Night Entertainment, the group behind the similarly spiffy Red Lantern, among others.
Taking its name and design flourishes from the downtown jeweler's district, they've carved out an exceptionally gorgeous, luxe lounge on the second floor of the historic old building that previously housed Kennedy's Irish pub. The smallish bar space -- there are two adjacent wings for a dining room and a lounge -- is opulently appointed, but welcoming, with literally the most comfortable bar seats I can remember. There's no question that this is going to be a very successful outing from the already successful restaurateurs, with well-heeled people lined up to get in on weekends.
I just won't be one of them, personally. On my way in, the door man politely informed me that they will be enforcing a dress code soon. (All employees seemed polite all around.)
As for the dress code, I suppose you wouldn't want scumbags like me in here bumming everyone out. It might pop the illusory luxury bubble created by spending up to $4,500 on bottle service. (That's for the Louis XIII de Remy Martin cognac.) Or $7 Coronas. At least that's what the bros on my left were drinking. The group of girls to my right were sucking down vodka sodas. I wonder why creative bartenders even try to swim against the stream of mediocrity sometimes. If only great-looking, potentially amazing spaces like this could put some of their money into improving the general public's drinking taste.
Cocktail options better than they need to be
I will miss having another crack at the green onion tater tots with Russian dressing, however. And I'm happy to see on the drinks menu an Aviation, made with Cherry Heering instead of Marschino; a variation on a Blood and Sand called the Smokey Quartz made with Dewars White, Cherry Heering, Carpano Antica and orange juice; and a Sazerac, albeit one of the hardest-shaken ones of my life. Not sure I would've ever ended up going near the $18 Gemvara cocktail made with Grey Goose La Poire, Gran Marnier 100, lemon juice and Moet Imperial though -- but I suppose we'll never know.
If you go:
42 Province St., Boston